Truth be told – Johnson County pioneer John Gilbert was not who he said he was! Records show that Gilbert’s real name was John W. Prentice – business man and land speculator from New York!
A rather shady fellow, John W. Prentice – of which no birth records have ever been identified – made a series of bad investments in canal construction projects back east. And once his debts began to mount up, Prentice apparently jumped ship, following new business opportunities in the West where he could hide his identity from his creditors.
While Sumner Phelps was the first white man to set foot in Johnson County (circa 1830-1832), he never lived here. John Gilbert, on the other hand, moved to Johnson County around 1835/1836 and became a true mover-and-shaker for all things Iowa City.
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